How Are You Doing?

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

God shows us great compassion. And in my transformed identity as a Christian, God has put in me a desire to show that same care and compassion to my students as I teach.

I have found that small ways—even a simple question—make a significant impact.

I teach on a 10-week quarter system. By the fourth week, midterms are in full swing, and students are often tired and stressed. It’s a great time to begin class with a short check-in on how my students are doing.

I pass out notecards and start with a story: “When I was a graduate student,” I tell my students, “I was blessed with a wonderful advisor. Each week when we met, my advisor started by asking me, ‘How are you doing?’ “

I explain that my advisor wasn’t asking me how my experiments went, what data I had, or how my classes were going. He was asking me how I, as a person, was doing, and he genuinely cared about the answer.

And so now, I am asking them the same, “How are you, as a person, doing?”

The check-in is optional; nearly all students participate. Many students write long responses on the notecard. Some students are doing well despite the busyness. Many students feel overwhelmed and anxious about exams. Some students share deeply personal details: broken relationships, dying grandparents, financial struggles. Several students say thank you for the opportunity to share.

At the start of our next class meeting, I thank everyone for telling me how they are doing and summarize the responses. For those feeling stressed, I remind them they are not alone and what they are feeling is normal. Then, I tell them that I’m praying for them by name – specifically using the notecards.

I repeat this notecard check-in one or two more times during the quarter. By the end of the quarter, the message is clear—I care about you—and the impact is surprising.

In the words of one of my students on a course evaluation:

“She understands that we are students and people that make mistakes and are also going through a lot. She hears our struggles and our pain and acknowledges them which is VERY rare… She makes me feel valued as a student and a person. Thank you Dr. DeBruhl for wanting to get to know us.”

Before becoming a Christian, I was rather indifferent to others around me. Hopefully not rude, but also not interested nor caring.

God’s compassion transformed my heart for others.

Now, it’s a privilege to show God’s compassion and love to my students. Just a little question can make a big difference.

Heather DeBruhl
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo